The Museum Relic – DCS World campaign

In this upcoming DLC campaign for DCS World, Apache600 has found a unique way of putting a square peg in a round hole with The Museum Relic story…

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Let me start out by saying – I hate the MiG-15bis module. Well, I thought I hated the MiG-15 module. (Feel free to substitute F-86 wherever “MiG-15” appears in this article.) I’m a bit of a techno-geek, button pushing type of simmer, so the WWII and Korea era DLC didn’t really appeal to me. Well, color me stupid because thanks to Apache600’s soon to be released DLC campaign, I was forced into hopping into the MiG-15 to wring out his campaign, and ended up falling in love with these early model jets. Though generally outclassed over the DCS World battlefield, when they are put in the right roles, they are a blast to fly and modeled to perfection. So how did I end up transitioning from an uninformed MiG hater to an unabashed MiG lover? Well, the story pulled me in….

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Locals wave to the freshly restored MiG-15 sporting a custom Matova livery…

The Museum Relic

The Museum Relic is a campaign for either the MiG-15 or F-86 that allows the player to take over as a pilot flying a museum aircraft that has been fully restored to combat functionality. In your role, you will be flying for the fictional nations of either Matova or Obristan. For my preview, I choose the MiG-15 campaign flying for the glory of Matova. The six-page briefing gives a nice back-story on how I came to restore the MiG-15, the history of the two nations, and how the outbreak of hostilities occurred. Over the course of a protracted war, supplies and inventories for both sides were drawn down, eventually leading to the desperate move to bring the museum pieces out of storage and into the battle. To my great surprise, this story actually works out pretty well for several reasons that I’ll get into below. The campaign, consisting of over twenty missions, weaves a well told story with action in your little MiG-15 (or F-86) to genuinely immerse you into the war that Apache600 has created for you. I found myself anticipating each subsequent mission, wondering where my path would end up.

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The missions

When Apache600 initially contacted me about taking a look at The Museum Relic, I was a bit skeptical. While I get that the WWII and Korea era aircraft are fun to fly, and certainly interesting to enthusiasts of that era, they are not exactly my cup o’ tea as it were. After reading the campaign briefing, and taking a look at the meticulously crafted mission briefings, my curiosity rose. Apache600 is, in real life, a professional airline pilot, with aviation knowledge that percolates down into his mission creation skills. You will find some very nice scenarios that will challenge your navigation, basic flying skills, advanced flying skills (weather, radios, and navigation aids), and emergency procedures. All of those things get folded into a combat environment that strikes just the right balance of MiG-15/F-86 capabilities that challenge you, but don’t overwhelm you. You will find offensive and defensive roles that will pit you against enemies of varying skill levels and equipment, but you won’t come up against impossible odds. Nor will you be asked to do something truly ridiculous.

As the campaign unfolds, the personalization of the campaign will make you feel like a vital cog in a larger set of gears that is your country’s war effort. The mission briefings are very well done and typically include around seven custom briefing pages that outline the continuation of the story, your mission goals, maps, intel photos, and mission specific flight plan cards with parameters such as headings, altitudes, speeds, and COM/NAV frequencies. The briefings are great, but they aren’t perfect in the early release version we were given. There are just a smattering of typos, the most egregious of which is the constant reference to the MiG as the Mig (no capitalization of the G). Not a deal breaker by any means, and in the broader scheme of things, the quality of the briefs and mission construction trumps the very occasional typo.

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A few slides from the briefing screens that show information typically presented including: story, map, intel, and flight plan cards.

The missions themselves are of quality construction. The story builds upon itself and I was impressed at both the continuity of the story, as well as the flow of the entire campaign. It is hard to describe without giving details or ruining surprises, but I feel the tempo of the campaign increases in a logical and attainable way. For both experienced and new MiG-15/F-86 drivers, there is plenty of challenge without being frustratingly overwhelmed. Types of missions include a wide spectrum of escort, intercept, ground attack, and specialty missions that are attainable in these older technology aircraft.

Of particular satisfaction are the great pains the author extended to make the campaign world alive with traffic and ground objects that really help immerse yourself in the mission and the wider campaign. Airfields are nicely populated and nearly every mission has support flights that are part of your package that make you feel that you are put to use in the perfect role that is challenging, but not impossible. Thus, other flights in your package may include Su-25Ts that are tasked with SAM suppression and you would be wise to pay attention to their radio messages to slot yourself into the action where appropriate. Radio traffic is good and moves the story along, and there are some very nice dramatic moments where messages come over the radio that will get your heart rate going. In my opinion, the “corniness quotient” of most of the radio traffic is quite low, and you won’t find yourself rolling your eyes very much, and instead will appreciate the messages for their contribution to gameplay.

Gameplay

If you are new to the MiG-15 or F-86 (as I was), you’ll be relieved to know that you can figure out the engine start up procedure and weapons within just a few minutes of watching some instructive YouTube videos. A cold and dark start in the MiG-15 only takes about sixty seconds after some practice, and weapons initialization is just a matter of pressing a few buttons and flipping a couple switches. That is the beauty of flying these aircraft in a campaign setting – so much of the focus is on flying and fighting, and less on weapons management. The missions include very good aids to help you get eyes on target including colored smoke, and the repeated reference to geographic locations that really get your head in the game. The continuity of the campaign is exceptionally well done in that respect – you get to know your Area of Operations, and there is a very clever use of static objects that allude to the path you will follow. For instance, landing at your base to see a pair of Tupolev Tu-22s on the ramp is a good indication that they will feature in a future mission. The references to target areas you have visited on prior missions gives a nice continuity and familiarity with the campaign region that gives you a leg up on understanding what is going on. It is so subtly done that you might not appreciate it if you weren’t looking for it.

Approachable, but not easy

I’m a huge fan of the campaign’s mission structures and diversity, and even though I’m a neophyte MiG-15 pilot, I feel that the gameplay aspects strike just the right difficulty level. I will admit though, that I’m a terrible bomber and gunner in the MiG-15 (owing to my newness to the module) so I did turn on a couple of user aids on some missions due to my inexperience. The nice thing about most of the missions is that they don’t have you going after the entire opposition as if Chuck Norris has been given the keys to an old fighter. The campaign phases move incrementally and the missions make sense as they link together, and provide for a good flow of the story. Coming into the MiG-15, I did have to familiarize myself with the communications radio and how to convert frequencies to enter into the COM radio rotary, as well as how to tune and track the NDB signals that are used for many of the missions. The MiG-15 is very much a hands on the stick airplane, so familiarity with the cockpit is a good idea, but it comes quickly once you dive in.

Mission goals are briefed at the outset, but can change as the mission evolves, so pay attention to the radio. There were many tense, edge of your seat moments that I’d love to tell you about, but can’t lest I ruin the surprise. In a nod toward the play testing that must have occurred, I’ll say that the triggers and custom scenarios that you will encounter worked 100% of the time for me, which is pretty incredible. It appears that the triggers are set with enough leeway that you don’t have to fly so precisely that it kills your immersion because you are so locked on flying the flightplan to 100% accuracy – so I commend the author for finding the perfect balance. Matching up MiG-15/F-86 performance with more modern units had to be a challenge, and it is done very well in this campaign.

Conclusion

I think The Museum Relic is one of the best examples I’ve seen to date of how to integrate platforms that don’t seem to quite fit into the current DCS World environment into a believable scenario. It very much feels like you are participating in a movie, but not one that seems completely outside the bounds of what might be possible. The author struck a very nice balance of gameplay difficulty with the capabilities of the MiG-15/F-86. As of publication of this article, the campaign has been submitted to Eagle Dynamics and is the process of being integrated as DLC. No price point was available at this time.

Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth